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Components, the whole is only as strong as its parts

As supply chains have expanded across the world, quality assurance procedures become ever more crucial. One misstep along the way and the final product might not be safe.

That is why the announcement last week from Kobe Steel was troubling. In a public apology, the president of the company admitted fake inspection data. The metal in question was a component used to build many products, including cars and appliances.

Failed to conduct/"rewrote" inspection data

The company discovered the violations when completing internal inspections and "emergency quality audits." Falsified data included the strength of certain aluminum and copper products.

How did this occur? It was not immediately clear whether a few employees were responsible or it was a broader failure in policies.

Kobe Steel supplies aluminum to several large automakers. Both Nissan and Toyota confirmed that they use the products in their hoods and doors. These companies are quickly working to identify problems that the component parts may have caused. They have also discussed adding measures that ensure the issues do not occur in the future.

Parallels with Takata airbag scandal

This brings to mind the issues with airbags supplied by Takata. In that case, cost cutting produced a safety component that actually became dangerous itself. The problems were covered up until many people suffered serious shrapnel injuries in minor collisions. The company had settled on a cheaper chemical tablet that was prone to break down over time causing airbags to explode with too much force.

The strength of metal used to build a car is crucial during an accident. A door made from subpar aluminum may not stand up when another driver crashes into the side of your vehicle. Uncovering this was the difference between bumps and bruises and a severe fracture or worse takes work. Experts in metallurgy can run tests on component parts, but it important to ask the questions and do a proper investigation.

If the injuries from an accident seem disproportionate, seek legal counsel from a personal injury attorney with experience handling complex products liability cases. It might turn out that a component manufacturer was to blame for supplying a subpar product.

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